Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct Shea Crouch's name and the number of reptiles she has.
Animal rescues are commonplace nowadays, but one doesn’t often see a reptile rescue, and two Sedalians plan to bridge the gap.
Chantry Alexander and partner Shea Crouch, both of Sedalia, operate the nonprofit Reptile Man Chan Reptile Rescue. Alexander currently has 17 reptiles — four snakes, two Bearded Dragons, and 11 Leopard Geckos, plus a Testudo Tortoise named Maximus. Crouch has four reptiles at her home.
Caring for the cold-blooded comes naturally for the warm-hearted Alexander. Alexander said what he does locally is take in reptiles when owners are no longer able to care for them.
“A lot of people will get reptiles as pets or the kids will want them as pets,” he noted. “Being exotic they're a lot of fun to have, but then as time goes on, some people realize they are a little more maintenance or they get a little bigger. Sometimes they even have medical issues.”
He added he was “always a fan of reptiles growing up.” Alexander would often be found at the local pet shop checking out the reptiles. While there, he also noticed people returning animals and reptiles to the shop because they couldn’t care for the pet.
“As I got older, the owner there talked about how they wished there was some program or shelter … but there’s nothing for reptiles and exotic animals,” he explained. “I think it was about 2011, I started trying to get stuff together.”
He began researching what it would take to operate a reptile rescue and rehab program.
“Essentially, I would take in reptiles, but also adopt them out,” he said. “It runs as the same function as the Humane Society or an animal shelter, but it’s just nonprofit.”
Alexander went to schools and provided educational programs about reptiles to students and adults. He also took his reptiles to birthday parties to provide an educational slant to the event.
“As time went on, more and more people started finding out about it,” he noted. “Because there’s not one in this area.
“Even Kansas City and St. Louis, they have zoos, but they can only take in so much,” he continued. “What I do right now, I’ll take then in and if they need rehabilitation, I’ll rehabilitate them.”
Alexander is rehabilitating a Bearded Dragon that has a neurological disorder. He knows the reptile can’t be adopted with the disorder and has made it an animal ambassador representing the rescue. He added the Bearded Dragon helps him “connect” the “bridge” with people who are afraid of reptiles.
“One of my favorite things, when I started this, was how people would say they’re scared of snakes, but they wanted to not be afraid,” he said. “So, over time, I’ve developed my own kind of ‘Overcome Your Fear’ program.”
When he helps people overcome their fear of snakes or other reptiles, he starts with a small Hognose snake named Dr. Strange, before progressing to holding a larger snake. Alexander said what he enjoys most is giving the animals a second chance and allowing them to be part of an educational program.
“It’s just another way to give back,” he said. “Plus, they’re fascinating creatures.
“I myself, am a unique, and sometimes an intimidating individual, and I can relate to reptiles that way,” he added. “You look at them and get taken aback by their less than cuddly appearance. But then when you start working with them, it’s fascinating to see what they retain.”
Since beginning the rescue, Alexander has funded all the needs for the reptiles, including medical care. And for those who wish to adopt a reptile, for a monetary donation, he supplies a start-up kit and an enclosure.
“That way it’s not overwhelming,” he explained. “Adopting an animal that’s been surrendered to us should be a fun experience.”
Alexander said his goal is to open a reptile-type zoo for the local area.
“A place where adults and kids can come and see these animals and learn about them,” he added. “As well as have a good, big facility to help house and rehabilitate, and treat these animals.
“Essentially like an animal shelter,” he continued. “But it would be a nice way to bring something exciting to kids and families to do in Sedalia ...”
Alexander said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the mom and pop pet stores that sponsored his work have shut down. He added he’s accepting donations of enclosures, equipment, or anything to help the reptiles. For more information, visit Reptile Man Chan Reptile Rescue on Facebook or mcreptile.com.